My proudest moment

This morning I sat on my sofa feeling good about myself. I mean, really good… That kind of good that has you sitting back, oblivious to all that is around you just grinning, head thrown back, eyes closed… And actually even now as I’m writing this, I’m still carrying this inane grin.

I guess someone, somewhere might be interested to know why?

Because I cracked it. Yup. I cracked the secret to all my problems. One minute I had been sitting and pondering all my failings, and in a single moment I discovered the solution.

Which is…

Wait for it…

Cue drumroll…

And wait a little longer as I have to get this over the fold of the page…

And now a little longer as I’m just having fun here…

Ok last time I promise….

And just one more time because I’m really annoying like that (seriously, just ask my wife)…

Me.

You? Are you sure it isn’t God or something a little holier? 

I hear voices in heads writing me off as a heretic. (But hey, you’re the ones with voices in your heads, so think about that before you wag the finger…)

No, it really is me. 

I am the solution to all of my failings/problems.

I guess I better explain myself before too many of my 4 followers hit the ‘unfollow’ button…

The turning point was when I was reading this paraphrase of 2 Cor:

‘I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people.’ Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ’s power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities.

– 2 Cor 12:9-10

So Paul cracked it too… And yes, God is slightly more involved than I originally let on. But Paul was proud of himself too, to the point of boasting about it! 

So to follow Paul’s example, this is my moment, with pride in my heart and tears in my eyes, here is my boast for all to see…

I AM WEAK, and I feel like I totally suck at half the jobs God has asked me to do.

But yet, for some reason God chose weak old me to stand in the places he has put me in and to delight in my weakness so He can show His strength. 

I am the solution to my problems, because until I acknowledge that God chose me to be where He put me, in all my weakness, I’m denying His strength to take that weakness and make something out of it.

I am the solution because nobody else can stand up for me joyfully rather than holing myself away and getting depressed about my many failings.

I am the solution because there is no other husband in my home to pour out praises, support and encouragement to my wife. There is no other father in my home to bring stability and create an atmosphere of safety and joy, even if none of these things come naturally to me.

I’ve had a tough week learning just how weak I am, learning just how little human reserves I have to do things that other people do so naturally – from having patience with kids to learning when to keep my mouth shut with S. (more about that another day). 

To be blunt, I’ve learnt that in many ways as a husband and dad… I stink. 

But today, with a grin on my face and joy in my heart I realise that when I boast about that horrific stench I have the capacity to make, the Holy Spirit comes along and somehow produces bottles and bottles of fine fragrance. 

But only when I submit my weakness to Him.

Picture a little boy, handing over his lunchbox, knowing full well that it wasn’t enough, utterly gobsmacked when he realises he’s just fed an entire mountainside packed with people.

He takes our little and makes it much. He takes our weakness and makes it strong. 

None of us ‘have it’. If we think we do, we’re kidding ourselves. But we do have Him, and that’s worth an inane grin or two.

– 2 Cor 12, Matt 14

Don’t Promote me…

I’ve spent a good deal of time recently pondering how I can be ‘more visible’ – whether it’s in my church, my work, online or in any other space… Deep down, however much I deny it, there is an inbuilt human desire in me to be seen, to be noticed, to be valued and to be heard by others...

In fact, these were the very human sensibilities that Satan played to with Jesus in the desert – the very things from which he was able to resist temptation.

It’s totally natural: when we do a good job – we want someone to say ‘well done!’, when we are faithful at work – we want to be given more responsibility, when we feel we have something to say – we want people to listen…

For me, it has been a frustration in following God’s call to a new country, to go to church in another language, one that I understand but probably can’t quite teach in yet – so from being an ‘up and coming leader’ back at home, for the last 6 years now, I have no ‘public voice’ and therefore no ‘status/recognition’ within the body like I may have done before… (No, I’m not from Russia!)

So now picture the scene… Here I am, vacuuming my house, talking to God (nope, I wasn’t on my face or in any particularly holy place), asking Him to give me room to speak and share what was on my heart in my congregation, asking for space to share the things He was sharing with me, asking Him to give me a platform for ministry, asking Him to let my voice be heard, to give me status & recognition…

And while I may have spun it in ‘Godly’ terms, while I may have thought I had good reasons for it, what I was actually praying was:

God – make me visible!

Validate me through the eyes of other humans!

Give me status!

My security in You isn’t enough – I want to be heard!

Not unsurprisingly, this prayer wasn’t answered, but instead some other words dropped into my heart, a paraphrase of Matt 6:33

Whose Kingdom are you seeking with all those prayers – yours or mine?

This was a tough one to hear. I had to (and daily keep having to) let go of my natural desire to be seen, my human nature, and truly “seek first the Kingdom of God”, and all that this entails… And do you know what?

This was the most releasing prayer I could pray! 

The prayer below has released me to no longer keep one eye on ‘how the situation will serve me’ (when I am disciplined enough!)… I can go to my church and truly ask what the Lord wants of me, who He wants me to befriend or talk to, rather than needing to ‘cosy up’ to those in authority. I can do my job faithfully, and trust that my faithful service will be recognized when it needs to be (and actually it just was!). I can say ‘no’ to work for the sake of my family, as I know that in giving my children and S. time, I am operating according to Kingdom principles… If I place my treasure in His Kingdom, my heart will be there also

In short, with my eyes on God’s Kingdom, my visibility and recognition is in His hands. My security is in Him and Him alone. I trust that He has brought me to where I am for a reason, and if my voice is being ‘muted’ for a time, then I trust that He knows why.

So that’s why now, I daily (when I remember) have been asking God NOT to promote me… You heard right, I pray every day that God WON’T promote me, well, not on my terms anyway…

I truly believe that God has said that He will use each of us for His Kingdom as much as we’ll let Him, and for many of us faithful service in our field will lead to promotion and a gradual increase of our voice among men. For others, that will not be the case – His Kingdom might be best served in keeping us right where we are, wherever that might be, and, dare I say it, sometimes that even means moving us to a ‘lower’ place in the eyes of men.

So, whether up or down, high or low, visible or invisible, I have daily committed to praying this prayer:

Lord, don’t promote me until & unless it serves Your Kingdom…

 – Anyone want to pray this with me?

Matt 6:21-22, Matt 6:33

 

Conditions on love?

Do we put conditions on our affection? When love is freely received by us, why do we struggle to freely give?

Luke 6:32-36

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

If Jesus is asking me to love my enemies freely, how much more should I pour love out on those within my own home?

Matthew 18:32-35

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Romans 5:8

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

He pours His love and forgiveness out on us when we are not worthy.

In my marriage, do I pour out the incredible,  death-defying, generous, merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving, unending covenantal love that was poured out on me?